The secrets of Exeter College’s success

John Laramy

John Laramy - Credit: Archant

Lydia Tewkesbury chats to John Laramy, Principal and Chief Executive of Exeter College about the institution’s success

John Laramy, Principal and Chief Executive of Exeter College

John Laramy, Principal and Chief Executive of Exeter College - Credit: Archant

Exeter College has had a fantastic couple of years. Rated ‘gold’ for higher education under the Teaching Excellence Framework, ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and, most recently, the best college in the UK according to FE Weekly – for the second year in a row – there seems to be no end to their success.

Principal and Chief Executive John Laramy was thrilled with their latest accolade. He said: “What’s really lovely about it is that it’s produced by a sector newspaper and they don’t use what’s traditionally called upon – they don’t really look at results.”

Instead, the rating is determined by feedback from students and employers and by surveying students post-college to find out whether they have gained employment or entered higher education. John continued: “Using those metrics, we’ve come out as the best college in England for two years in a row. When you think that’s based on the feedback of thousands of young people and hundreds of employers – that’s a pretty amazing statistic.”

John credits the success of Exeter College with the collaborative ethos among students and staff at every level of the institution. It is, he assures me, all about communication. “We work hard to listen to students – we have a learner voice that I personally run. I believe that if you’re going to operate a great organisation you need to know what it’s really like, so students give direct feedback about what they like at college, what we could improve and staff they think are doing a great job.”

The same platform is available to staff, and it is through this open discussion of successes and areas for improvement as well as the business support the college prides itself upon that they are able to create such a positive environment for students and teachers – an especially remarkable achievement in a time when funding is so low. John explains: “The funding for this particular phase of education is not enough and I think that is fairly widely recognised.

“We’re the only developed nation in the world that funds its post-16 phase at a lower level than its pre-16 phase – funding drops 21% per student.” But, despite the challenges, John’s outlook remains positive.

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“My view is you could spend a lot of time just talking about all the challenges and the difficulties, or you could say, well this is the world we’re in, let’s try to do the best that we can with our staff, our students, our partners and our stakeholders. Working together, maybe we can continue to keep doing an amazing job.”

Having recently celebrated their best ever results as well as their continued partnership with almost 1000 apprenticeship providers, new expansions and staff and students coming together to raise a record-breaking £21,000 for Devon Air Ambulance – it seems like their approach is working.

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